* May 20th funding-raising update: Amazing! We made it!

HUGE NEWS this holiday weekend!

We now have $61,322 in our sponsorship account for Saima’s family, and have passed the minimum fundraising goal required by IRCC to submit our formal application.  This is an enormous milestone. 

A MASSIVE THANK YOU to all of our generous donors. We are breathing easier today.

(You might notice that our ‘Goal’ amount has changed since the last update. This is because as it turns out, one of Saima’s sister whose 18th birthday is in November this year, may well be legally an adult by the time the family arrive. A re-calculation for a family of ‘three adults and three children’ now gives a sponsorship minimum threshhold amount of $57,000)

* URGENT! With refugee spaces assigned, we need your help with the last $10K

This week, we have been advised by our Sponsorship Agreement Holder (for details see this earlier update) that we have now been assigned ‘spaces’ by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to allow us to move ahead with submitting the completed application to sponsor Saima’s family.

Even better, it has been confirmed that Saima’s family meet at least two of the five criteria for expedited evacuation under Canada’s Operation Afghan Safety (OAS) program. That is to say, at least one member of the family is:

  • a member of a persecuted religious minority: “An individual who identifies as members of a religious minority that is persecuted in Afghanistan, including but not limited to Hindus, Sikhs, Hazaras and Ismailis.”
  • a human rights defender: “A person who, individually or in association with others, promotes or strives for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms within Afghanistan, and who has faced persecution or is at risk of persecution as a result of this activity.”

We are now finalizing paperwork, and compiling all available documentary evidence to submit to IRCC.

Can you help us meet the funding goal by June 1st 2022?

To be able to submit the final application, we the sponsoring group need to demonstrate that we have $52,000 in hand – the minimum funding level that IRCC calculates is needed for a family of six.

We are almost there! Only $10,000 to go! If you can spare anything at all, please help. Donations to the formally managed sponsorship fund can be made online or by cheque. Visit the donations page to help.

* Use our Return-It Express code to help us reach the sponsorship funding goal

Such an easy way to turn most of your recycling into $$ that can automatically be added to our fundraising account to support sponsorship of Saima’s family!

With Return-It Express you don’t need to sort and count containers, just bag ’em and drop them by an Express Depot.

Follow these four simple steps:

  1. Collect your beverage empties into a large clear plastic bag (70-75 L) that is sealed, and return to an EXPRESS location near you (find locations)
  2. Enter the phone number  778 229 4312  in the Express Kiosk.
  3. Print your tags, affix tags to bag and drop them off.
  4. Drive away knowing that you’ve helped in the effort to save Saima’s family.

What kind of containers can you return?

Many many different kinds! Visit this page to discover the glass, metal and plastic containers that are accepted.

Vancouver locations:

  • Powell Street
  • South Vancouver
  • Mount Pleasant
  • UBC
  • Yaletown
  • Vancouver West
  • Vancouver East

Other BC locations

  • All over the Metro Vancouver area, including North Vancouver
  • Fraser Valley
  • Vancouver Island
  • Thompson-Okanagan
  • Kootenays
  • Northern BC

For more information visit the Return-It Express website.

* Artist donates painting sales to Save Saima’s Family

For the month of May, artist Theo Dombrowski will donate all proceeds of paintings sold through his website to the campaign to Save Saima’s Family. A former teacher at Pearson United World College, he has become acutely aware through an ongoing network of the urgency of raising funds to sponsor the family of a recent Pearson graduate. It seems to him particularly important to stand up for people who put themselves in particular danger through their activism for human rights and the education of girls.

Theo’s work is immensely varied: landscapes, portraits, abstracts, children’s art, and fantasy, as suggested by a tiny sample below. You can view hundreds of further works on his website. Perhaps you’ll find one for yourself and gain both a painting and a chance to support an excellent campaign.

* How much can Saima fit into a day?

The dinner at a local restaurant was a short break for Saima. It was early April and she had just finished the last of her classes for her first year at the University of British Columbia. She could allow herself to take a quick breath before she faced her final exams. Meeting her for dinner that evening were three of the members of the group working toward sponsoring her family as refugees in Canada. Two of them had previously met Saima only via Zoom.

During the dinner Saima recounted more of her brave story about her arrival in Canada as a teenage refugee, further cementing our impression of her as a strong, determined young woman. She also stunned her listeners when she explained that not only was she studying hard towards her final exams, but that she also spends three hours every night teaching English online to her siblings!

From left to right: Leah Macfadyen, Lynx, and Bev McDowell. At the front right is Saima.

* First fundraising update: April 4th 2022

We are cheered to report that our sponsorship fund currently stands at $23,000!

That’s almost halfway towards the minimum $52,000 required so that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada can process our sponsorship application as soon as more spaces are released.

To all who have supported this project already: a thousand thankyous.

ready to help? Learn how on the DONATE page.

* Amazing Support from CW4WA members

Wondering how Saima’s family are surviving at the moment? We gratefully acknowledge incredible support from individual members of the Victoria Chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WA).

Established in 1998 by two young Canadian women determined to explore how they as Canadian women could help Afghan women in a tangible and effective way, CW4WA now has chapter across the country.

CW4WA’a core mission is very much focussed on women and communities in Afghanistan:

Canadians taking action, in partnership with Afghan women, toward improving conditions of human rights, ending women’s oppression, and providing opportunities for Afghan women to live their lives with dignity, certainty and purpose.

But the Victoria Chapter have been gently supporting Afghan women students at Pearson College for many years, and swung into action in summer 2021, when Saima and other Afghan students needed help for their families.

We gratefully acknowledge the amazing and ongoing financial support from members of this group, which is allowing us to continue to pay for the basic survival needs of Saima’s family in hiding.

* “Can’t save the world, but can help save one family”

“I was feeling overwhelmed by all the grim news,” acknowledges Dr. Leah Macfadyen.  “But then I just decided!  I can’t save the world, but I can do all I can to help save this one family.”

Leah had met Saima many times by then, having met her first when the young Afghan woman was a student at Pearson United World College in Victoria.  Leah knew her story, and was impressed by her courage and determination.  She felt for the family, targeted by the Taliban for many of the same values that most Canadians hold and even take for granted:  the importance of human rights and education for girls, the value of leadership in a community. 

Leah herself had been drawn into Saima’s life through her own longstanding connection with Pearson College, as a graduate herself and presently a trustee.  Through personal ties with the college, she talked extensively with Nina Moroso (former Chair of the UWC National Committee of Canada) and Alastair Foreman (UWC alumnus and former UWC faculty member).  Together, they evolved ideas on how to give this brave and competent young Afghan woman the support that she needed and deserved.  All of them are now members of the sponsorship group, and all are passing the word on to their colleagues and friends.

They’ve worked extensively to build connections for Saima’s family’s immediate safety, and were extremely happy to forge relationships with the Anglican Archdiocese of New Westminster and Christ Church Cathedral (Vancouver) for official sponsorship channels and the practicalities of managing money reliably.  These steps make all the rest possible.

“When I was flooded by stories of people being killed or having their lives destroyed,” says Leah now, “I was of no use to anyone.  But I suppose the trick is to scale it all down to something that’s manageable, something that you think you can really do.”

* Christ Church Cathedral agrees to be our co-sponsor and manage funds

Critical to our fund-raising efforts is the ability to legally accept online donations and issue tax receipts to Canadian donors.

Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver has agreed to take on the role of co-sponsor and accept and account for funds on behalf of our sponsorship project. Ultimately, they will also assist with distribution of funds to Saima’s family after their arrival, and during their first year in Canada.

You can find their donations page here.

(To donate,

  • Click the ‘Give Through the Website’ button.
  • Use the dropdown menu at top right to select: ‘Refugee Sponsorship – Saima’s Afghan Family’)

* Saima launches her own crowdfunding campaign

This month, Saima forged ahead and launched an online crowdfunding campaign to help with sponsorship fundraising efforts, using the chuffed.org platform – a platform designed to support people working towards positive community change.

Chuffed.org can’t issue tax receipts to Canadians, or anyone else, for that matter. But it’s a fast, legal, and easy way for people all over the world to make small donations fast. And 100% of donations received come to Saima.

Help me resettle my forcibly displaced Afghan family in Canada

* A great leap forward: We find a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)

Late this month, we were overwhelmingly relieved to find a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) organization in the Lower Mainland who agreed to work with us to sponsor Saima’s family to enter Canada: the Diocesan Refugee Unit of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster.

As the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RTSP) website explains, An SAH

is an incorporated organization that has signed a sponsorship agreement with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

The sponsorship agreement allows SAHs to sponsor a certain number of refugees each year for resettlement to Canada through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program.

A SAH may be a local, regional or national organization. SAHs differ in their activities, size, composition and geographical mandate.

SAHs may partner with groups or individuals to sponsor refugees under their agreements. These groups are referred to as Constituent Groups (CGs); any individuals that partner with SAHs are known as co-sponsors.

Importantly, this SAH has recognize that as members of the Hazara minority, Saima’s family are eligible for the special Afghan program the Canadian government has set up.

We, Saima’s friends and supporters, immediately formed ourselves into the necessary ‘Constituent Group’. As signatories, we commit to supporting the sponsored refugee(s):

  • financially
  • emotionally
  • and with settlement support for the duration of the sponsorship period, which is usually 12 months from the date of arrival or until the sponsored refugees have become self-sufficient (which ever comes first).

As a group, we are not church-affiliated, or Anglican-affiliated. But we are incredibly grateful to the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, and happy to collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations determined to make a difference.

* The impossible-to-ignore plea for help

My parents and all Afghan refugee needs you right now

August 17, 2021

Some of you might know me, and some might not. I am Saima…from Afghanistan. As you guys might have heard in the news and social media Taliban took over the city and almost every single part of Afghanistan. In the past few days, I have been trying to help as many people as possible to get them to a safe place but borders and airports are shutting down. Afghan People are hopeless and desperate for help. One of them is my family. I have three younger brothers which the youngest is only four years old, and a younger sister, who is 16. 

As most of you might have heard/read in the news Taliban is going door to door and raping all the underage girls without any mercy and taking younger kids from their parents. My younger sister is having nightmares every single night that she might get raped or killed anytime…  

My dad, who has been my main supporter throughout the years, have already been kidnapped in 2016 right before I came to Canada because he was helping girls to get their education outside of Afghanistan. He almost killed during this bloody war. My parents, who have worked so hard all their lives lost everything, because of being a Hazara and Shia minority. This is only my parents’ story who I have no idea where they at the moment are. The last time I spoke with them, they were trying to find a safe place. I don’t even know if they are alive or not. I have always tried my best to solve everything by myself. However, this time, I can’t. I am exhausted and hopeless. I am about to lose my sister and my family. Therefore, as an Afghan girl and a human being who lived her teenage years without a parent asking for help from anyone at this moment. I need help. Please help my people and family who are suffering endlessly…If you know any organization or group of people who can come together to sponsor my family or any refugee, let me know. My parents need help, and I am begging not to leave us alone. It has been a lonely fight, and your support can save at least a few kids and my parents. Or, if there is any way you can help us, please let me know.

Best regards, 
Saima